Monday, 8 October 2012

Music theatre Mondays: First Dance

I did not see any musical theatre this week! I did a lot of other things, namely writing two papers and getting my computer back from Toshiba's clammy clutches- oh, and Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is a bit different from the Thanksgiving that I understand is celebrated south of the border- for one thing, we hold it when it's still reasonably nice outdoors, and not a frozen wasteland of dead grass and mud, and for another, it's founded less on mass genocide and more on "well those guys were doing it, so we figure we might as well." Anyway, since my family does not consist of theatre performers (since I have not yet managed to pursue my dream of genetically engineering my very own theatrical Kennedy family. Alas.) I spent a quiet weekend at home with my parents and grandfather.

However! I did see a musical theatre production- of sorts- last week. Because I'm living on a university campus with a drama department, we tend to get whatever local plays are travelling through. The Tottering Biped company (on facebook here- become a fan!) stopped by at the end of September to put on a play that they've been workshopping, "First Dance." I've always been a big fan of Tottering Biped's mission statement with regards to theatre- as a company, they specialize in theatre with a social message, and carrying on a dialogue with the audience rather than making them passice receptors. I first saw one of their productions when "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" stopped by Theatre Aquarius, and found out afterwards that the reason a relatively small company was putting it on is because CanStage- a relatively large professional company based in Toronto- had cancelled plans to produce the play themselves for fear of controversy. "First Dance" is quite different from "Rachel Corrie" in that it tackled different issues and was created by writers and artists working for Tottering Biped rather than a pre-existing play. "First Dance" is an abstract piece- no, come back! I had the same initial response but it's good, I promise- about the courtship rituals surrounding the first dance at a wedding, and what changes in expectation when both partners are of the same gender. It's about same-sex marriage in the sense that the protagonist (his fiance never appears onstage) is gay and marrying a man, but it's more about the experience of being gay in general, how the things you've been trained to expect no longer apply, and the need for creating new rituals to follow. As I mentioned, I am really not a fan of abstract theatre- I saw a few in my short-lived Drama major days, and most of them seemed to involve the writer/director/star standing on a bare stage screaming obscenities and rubbing themselves with various edible fluids- but shows like fall in the middle for me. They're abstract in the sense that they don't have a plot, but concrete in the sense that the audience doesn't have to piece together what the playwright is saying with guesswork and the auteur's say-so. "First Dance" is much less a narrative than it is a series of vignettes that the main character ponders while he plans his wedding, but the wedding itself- and the general good writing- keep it from being pointless or confusing. There's also the dance numbers themselves, performed by people who have very clearly done their homework- as they explained in he Q&A after the show, they're both competitive ballroom dancers- so the polished dialogue never feels out of step with clumsier dance, or vice versa.

"First Dance" is still touring around southern Ontario- you can check times and places on the facebook page I liked to above- and if you have the chance, you should absolutely check it out. It's not terrible expensive, especially compared to mainstream theatres- my ticket cost $20- and it's a comparatively small price to pay for the experience.

(Also, one of the actors hugged me after the show, and I'm never washing this shirt again.)

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